One of the great aspects of the web is that it is always there. Do you want to buy a pair of socks at 02.00? Looking for the title of a song you haven’t heard in years? It’s all there, all the time. Indeed, if New York is the city that never sleeps, the web is the medium that likewise refuses a nap.
However, 24-hour convenience has a hidden cost. Those of us who have a role in building and maintaining websites often pay the price. We do this via our time and elevated stress levels. And we’re not just talking about working fixed hours.
For many designers and developers, it seems that we are dealing with different tasks at all times. Answering emails, debugging code, or trying to catch up on a pile of work. And then there are emergencies like a crashed website or malware infection.
This 24/7 work culture affects web professionals of all kinds. Whether you work as part of a large team or as a solo entrepreneur – none of us is immune.
The situation brings to mind a few questions about how to better manage (if not completely change) the culture. Let’s see if we can find some answers to help us navigate the challenges.
Why is it hard to resign?
The easy answer to feeling stressed and overwhelmed is to take a step back. Remove yourself from the situation and give your mind and body a break. Sounds great, right? Yet it is also a bit unrealistic for many of us.
When you have responsibilities, it’s hard to just shut them out. The reality is that our projects still require attention. Customers will continue to send emails. Unexpected problems pop up without considering our need for a break.
The irony of it is that technology was supposed to make our lives easier. And while it might improve the design and build processes, the rest is still up to us. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help on that front – but don’t expect miracles.
Additionally, the websites we build are now more complicated than ever before. Just think – the more e-commerce and subscription-based websites you manage, the more urgent maintenance and repairs become. Every second of downtime has a financial impact.
And this is exactly why we feel the need to be constantly connected. Because when we finally have a moment to ourselves, our phones buzz with another notification. It is similar to being a fireman, always ready – even in the quietest moments.
How can web professionals adapt?
It is certain that the web is not going on holiday. It won’t turn off for a few hours in deference to our needs. Therefore, it is up to us to adapt.
A large part of the challenge lies in setting the right expectations. This applies to both what the customers expect from us and what we expect from ourselves.
It can be difficult to set boundaries when it comes to providing good customer service. You want to be available when your customers need you. And it is important to ensure that questions are answered and problems are resolved.
Still, some customers will knowingly (or not) push the envelope in this area. If they email you outside of business hours and you respond within a few minutes, they will come to expect it. Don’t be surprised if they start doing it more often.
On the other hand, if you routinely respond the next day, those expectations may change. They will no longer anticipate that you will jump into action at a moment’s notice. If you lead the way, they will likely follow.
Context also plays a role. It is important to prioritize the things that can or cannot wait. An emergency may require immediate attention. A fundamental question, on the other hand, can be saved for tomorrow.
In addition, it is highly recommended to put down your phone and turn off notifications for a while. Especially when spending time with family and friends. You don’t want to be the person furiously typing away at a screen while a loved one tells you about their day.
Maybe you won’t be able to get away for long stretches. But you’ll at least give your brain a break and be better able to focus on other things.
Control what you can
An always-on mindset seems like a modern problem. And it’s made worse by an industry where we can work pretty much anywhere – including at home. For many of us, there is no traditional office to separate these different parts of life.
There are also no hard and fast guidelines to live by. The responsibility to maintain a work-life balance is ours. Neither customers nor colleagues will do it for us.
The good news is that there is an option to move the narrative. None of us need to be the web designer who works all odd hours of the day. By putting some boundaries in place and processes to support them, we can form healthier habits.
Ultimately, it helps you serve both your customers and yourself in the best possible way.